The Northwest League final kicks off tonight with Your Vancouver Canadians hosting the Beasts from Boise. Based on the second half of the season, these are the two best teams in the league, having virtually identical records in wrapping up the second half flag. I don’t have a ton of time to do any systematic research, but it makes sense that teams who win the second half in short season (or long season for that matter) ball tend to go on and represent their divisions in the championship series. Momentum is a big thing in baseball, and the C’s carried quite a bit of it over into their series with Everett. Having to win out over the final 4 games in Yakima meant they were already playing playoff baseball. All pressure would have been on Everett when the series started, and despite an excellent performance from their South African starter Dylan Unsworth on Monday, they were the first to crack.
The second half winner would naturally have a more settled lineup going into a playoff series, as the team that won the first half probably went through quite a bit of turnover as far as promotions, call-ups are concerned. That being said, the C’s starting nine for game one included two players who had only been with the team a week, so it’s not like they didn’t go through some roster upheavel prior to the playoffs.
So, let’s not take anything away from these two teams. They are the best the Northwest League has to offer, and it should be a great series. I’ll let a more mainstream forum take care of the pedantic head to head stats, match-ups, etc as mentioned before, I’m tight on time and would like to get a couple of beers down my throat before heading to the Nat.
For me, the C’s winning the West Division series in two straight is what will also win them their second straight NWL crown. By not having to throw Javier Avendano for a game three, means the NWL all-star rightey will get the ball for game one tonight. And, with the travel day tomorrow, the weekend’s pitching lineup will see (presumably) Roberto Osuna go Saturday, and, if necessary, Taylor Cole on the bump for Sunday.
Obviously I’m somewhat biased, but the three names mentioned above, are the three best pitchers at this level. Avendano, in particular, has had a brilliant season leading the NWL in both FIP and K/9 and was second only to teammate Cole with 1.00 WHIP. Getting a solid performance from Javier tonight would go a long way towards settling this series.
I was at the Nat on Monday which was the first time I saw Osuna. I have to say I was impressed. All the reports I had read had
him as someone who ‘would have to watch his weight going forward’. I didn’t see that at all. He is a big kid with a very athletic frame. His legs are like tree trunks which is where a good portion of his weight resides and where he gets his drive. His fastball came as advertised, clocking in at 95mph but he also mixed it up, keeping the Everett hitters off balance. It was his secondary offerings that really impressed. His changeup was un-hittable, averaging in the low 80′s. I wasn’t in a position to see the movement it created, but am guessing from the Aquasox hitter’s swings, it wasn’t coming in straight.
Despite not allowing a hit and striking out six, he was only given three innings of work. I can only guess, as haven’t been able to find any hard information, but he must be on a pretty strict pitch count at the moment. His six K’s were augmented by three walks and a hit batter, so he did throw a lot of pitches. It was the HBP that really showed off the competitor in this kid. After Everett’s nine hole guessed fastball and hit a long foul ball over the left field wall, Osuna blew a 95 mph heater by him, then challenged him again with another one. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on where he was aiming) that one got him in the elbow. This kid will be up at least one level next year, let’s enjoy him while he can.
With Osuna on such a strict pitch count, the bullpen will be a big factor on Saturday. In the two games against Everett, aside from a one inning blip from Wil Browning in Game 2, they have been lights out. The C’s have some good arms down there and quite a few of them. If given the lead in the late innings, I think C’s fans can be pretty confident the pen will take us home.
Before I crack those beers, I’d be remiss not to mention the single digit assasin Jorge Flores. Jorge was an offensive juggernaut against the WaterSox, with 5 hits, including 3 doubles! That was probably more than most of the other C’s hit totals. Flores was moved to the nine hole after the arrival of 1st rounder DJ Davis and it had the desired effect. With Tucker Frawley swinging a pretty decent stick at the moment, theoretically, there are no holes in the Canadians lineup right now. Of course, that is all well and good in theory. Any lineup where your 3 hole hitter goes 1 for 9 with 5 K’s has a hole or two.